What Clegg can learn from the Business world about staying on top

Nick Clegg makes the Liberal Democrats' Leader...

Nick Clegg

What is Nick Clegg good at? He had certain attributes which were suited to getting to the top of the political pile. Cameron has some of these attributes and Gordon Brown didn’t really have them. But when it comes to staying on top, the necessary attributes can be very different and Cameron has shown he has them and people like him and perhaps Clegg doesn’t have them.

When looking at the attributes that are needed for staying on top there has been a lot of research done in the business world and a new book will be looking at some of these. While all leaders need confidence and conviction, both of which Clegg has a lot of, these do not continue to carry you once at the top. So if there are any lessons for political leaders what would they be for Nick Clegg?

Humility: An important attribute for leaders once they have reached the goal of being in office as confidence is required to command respect, but humility is the necessary counter-balance to earn it. Humility in a leader has been shown in business many times – for a seminal piece of work see here. How would you rate Clegg on a humility scale? If humility is modesty, lacking pretence, not believing that you are superior to others then I am not sure he comes across that well and perhaps he would benefit from this attribute.

Intellectual Curiosity: Often leaders start by asking questions and then find themselves on side of the ordinary person but as leaders mature they then begin to answer them taking them away from where they wanted to be. Perhaps this is happening in the Lib Dem leadership as they seek to offer answers to a concerned membership.

Optimism: Clegg was originally seen as a very optimistic leader and many people liked him for it. He continues to say he is an optimist but leaders are expected to dissent, find the holes in logic, and predict pitfalls. After a while this attitude can become difficult to shift and we have seen Clegg doing some aggressive attacking of Labour and their policies as this is part of his job. The problem is that it doesn’t make him seem very optimistic and nor does it attract Labour voters.

Vulnerability: Power, strength, and confidence are attributes that leaders are expected to project to voters. But vulnerability humanises leaders, creating a “pull” of people towards you. People who ask for help often find others rallying behind them, fueled by a feeling of being needed and collectively working towards success. Clegg doesn’t so much attract people to help him out as turn people away right now so perhaps a little vulnerability from him would help?

Authenticity: Politicians are all too often over-positioned and under-authenticated. You can lose the authenticity in yourself and in the true purpose behind your party. Worse, you can start believing the spin around you and then people can see what you are saying is not their experience and then they are not listening anymore.

Openness: Tony Blair said that openness is the key to success in politics and despite what we might think of him, he was a successful politician in terms of winning elections. Welcoming things that might not fit the traditional mould may be an important part of staying on top.

While there are many reasons why people view Clegg as they currently do, we have a choice, to campaign for a new leader or to support the one we have. Perhaps if Clegg were to display some of these attributes then there may be an improvement for people to want to support him?

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